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Audeze LCD-X Over Ear Open Back Headphone Review

Degru

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Does the idea of "speed" for headphones even mean anything, or is it just a parameter the magazines made up so they could add a paragraph to their reviews?
It's a real thing, but isn't caused by any one specific driver behavior. It is a catch-all term to sum up several different driver behaviors that contribute to the perception of "speed" or lack thereof. This is true for many of these "audiophile" terms and "speed" is probably one of the less egregious ones. I personally hate the word "timbre" or "good timbre" because it literally encompasses "everything about the headphone's sound that's not tonality" and says nothing about its performance or even any specific description of sound.

That said, I still use these words because I'm lazy.
 

wwenze

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For wired cans, I would far rather them build and ship them as close as they can to the sound they want and suggest EQ or build plugins like audeze. I wouldnt want a world where bluetooth hp became synonymous with "better".

Active speakers are almost synonymous with "more value" nowadays. Perhaps that's what USB phones can make use of.

On a related note, it is possible to send both DC and AC signals through a single wire - essentially an AC signal with a DC bias, and separated at the load side using a coupling capacitor. A trick used by early CCTV and gaming consoles.
 
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NDRQ

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First time to see headphone's sigle point THD+N graph, very interesting. can this be a reasonable explaination of the unique bass sound impression provided by HD6xx series?

Actually its a well known fact that the HD650s weak point is the bass, thats just sucks.
The strong point of the 650s are the midrange & highrange and the overall really low distortion, thats why it has a unique sound.
 

phoenixdogfan

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Would appear so- I am not sure at all this is a good thing, but as long as readers understand that is one of the key deciders for the panther- so be it.

What I find interesting is that from a technical perspective (distortion etc) its great- but from a stock tuning angle- dud.

Which makes me wonder @amirm, should there be a two tier rating system? Most here know that EQ is pretty essential to get the best out of almost all transducers. A headless panther feels right for the stock performance, but not for what this (or perhaps any) HP can do.

Maybe headless should be reserved for a HP that is neither well made, bad FR as stock and also cant easily be EQ'd to something far closer to target without distorting?

Im overly complicating and as a subjective fan of the LCD-X should just take it on the chin . :rolleyes:
I kinda feel like you do, I've been using them practically the entire time I've had them with a custom, unit specific EQ from Sonarworks, and I've absolutely loved them. For me they have been absolutely great for the kind of 60's and 70's rock and 50's jazz I love.

I did know that right out of the box, they needed a major re-voicing though. But so did my HD 800's. They got the Dupont Mod and a Sonarworks EQ as well.

Maybe something like the Focal Utopias provide flagship level performance right out the box. But I don't know of many others. And do you really need or want to spend $4k on a headphone?
 

PeteL

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To measure the loudness limit, I did use IMD signal. Here is the comparison of the two:

View attachment 88092
May I ask you to elaborate a bit on what is modified smpte IMD 40 & 7000HZ 4:1 ratio? Again out of personal interest, I get you want to asses how loud it can go, but I'd like to know a bit more about what we are looking at. Don't worry we'll get it, It's the first full measurments of headphone here I think, so it's great to have a bit of insight on what you are measuring. In all honesty, I don't even know what smpte ratio mean so if you could quickly walk me trough that?
 
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amirm

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May I ask you to elaborate a bit on what is modified smpte IMD 40 & 7000HZ 4:1 ratio?
The standard test tones are 60 and 70 kHz. 60 Hz lands on mains frequency in US so I choose to move that to 40 Hz and hence the "modified" part. The 4:1 refers to the amplitude of the two tones. 40 Hz is four times stronger than 7 kHz.

In all honesty, I don't even know what smpte ratio mean so if you could quickly walk me trough that?
It is "THD+N" but for two tones.
 

Blujackaal

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Does the idea of "speed" for headphones even mean anything, or is it just a parameter the magazines made up so they could add a paragraph to their reviews?

It means how the driver performs with quite bit of bass when there mids/treble. Planar & BA headphones don't die because their drivers can stop & start without still vibrating after the note is done(80Hz) which sounds like more bass(also bass bleed).

My ER4SR's at 6db sound cleaner than others at the same boost.
 

Jimbob54

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I strongly agree. Unlike the other ASR content, from which I learn a lot, I learned literally nothing about the LCD-X that I didn't already know from other sources, and in particular the single frequency distortion measurements at only a single SPL aren't very useful.
I suspect the hp reviews will evolve but I must admit I think overall efforts are best expended in other areas. But it's a big area of interest and growth so maybe its worth Amir having a chunk of the pie.

I don't like closeness to Harman being the pass or fail, but maybe ability to eq well to Harman might be a far more useful yardstick. After all, there has to be something to compare to.
 

MZKM

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I would caution against putting any trust in distortion measurements from Tyll. This wasn't his forte and there is no evidence that his measurements are correct. Here are the THD levels I have at the same level that the frequency response was measured for LCD-X (different than the dashboard):

View attachment 88133

As you see, there is no dip at all at 40 Hz. It wouldn't make sense to have a dip in distortion anyway. But rather, you are falling victim to misleading way THD percentage works in systems with varying frequency response like speakers and headphones. There, the amplitude changes and that causes THD% to vary even though the distortion mechanism itself does not. Here is Tyll's frequency response test that shows this:

View attachment 88134

Notice as I circled, his measurements show sudden increase in response around 40 Hz. So for the same distortion amount, the percentage will shrink.

In my testing I am using a single tone @40 Hz and assuring that the identical reproduction level is used in both headphones. As a result, frequency response variations are dialed out and THD ratios can be compared.
Can you include these full frequency sweeps by default in future reviews?
 

solderdude

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Is there a better way to visualize harmonics than a single frequency?

Distortion levels are frequency and above all amplitude (level) dependent.
One also needs to take audibility levels and actual listening levels using music into account.

The difficulty with measuring is background noise. That's why on Tyll's plots 90 dB is worse than 100dB where in reality 90dB will be better but only appears to be worse.
To get down really low you need a completely dead room, both in reflections as well as background noises which for the lowest frequencies is extremely difficult. Otherwise it becomes just 'an indicator' for gross errors (which in my book is fine).

So it helps if distortion levels are measured at different SPL (realistic ones) and over the entire band (depends on the harmonics as well)

This means perhaps FFT at various frequencies and amplitudes (that means a LOT of measurements and heaps of plots and posting them).
Too bad if you have one at 5kHz for instance where it happens to be really bad but excellent at 4.5 and 5.5kHz for instance and almost inaudible with music.

The 40Hz at 100dB SPL will end really really bad for most dynamic headphones yet may sound totally fine at 90dB average SPL levels (is really loud already) with music peaking at 100dB SPL.

The review from Amir is a quick one with FR (as it happens to be for that particular rig only) acc. to a standard where the SINAD number will be no measure for quality with a different distortion measurement and Amir's short subjective opinion.
Based on that property alone the LCD-X would get the highest recommendation and be top of the list warranting another panther.

The FR plot is really only readable for most initiated people who can 'translate' the curve + target in their heads to estimate FR. so would expect the 'corrected' version as well for the folks that have a hard time correlating (includes me) to actual sound.

With EQ you can 'fix' a lot of headphones and improve others. It is essentially needed for almost all headphones.

It doesn't look like the HP measurements will be a 'one stop shop' type of thing just like it isn't on all other websites. These too only have scattered info someone might be looking for. Rtings also adds info, crinacle adds info, oratory adds info even RAA adds other info.

I see Amir's review as an addition of the info that is already available. A second opinion, another few reference points to a giant puzzle as it were.
Just made with other equipment and another copy of an already measured headphone elsewhere.
It can add info or confirmation of what's already known. If that's what Amir is after then that's O.K.
At this moment it is nowhere near the Klippel measurements and far removed from the DAC and amp measurements.

Amir is just starting this so give him some slack and pointers to fine tune his thing and am interested to see how this evolves and what the standard 'reporting' will be and how this will add info to what's already out there.
Just measuring and reporting FR on one particular test rig isn't all the info that is needed. The most important factor... yes. But not the only one.
 
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Helicopter

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Distortion levels are frequency and above all amplitude (level) dependent.
One also needs to take audibility levels and actual listening levels using music into account.

The difficulty with measuring is background noise. That's why on Tyll's plots 90 dB is worse than 100dB where in reality 90dB will be better but only appears to be worse.
To get down really low you need a completely dead room, both in reflections as well as background noises which for the lowest frequencies is extremely difficult. Otherwise it becomes just 'an indicator' for gross errors (which in my book is fine).

So it helps if distortion levels are measured at different SPL (realistic ones) and over the entire band (depends on the harmonics as well)

This means perhaps FFT at various frequencies and amplitudes (that means a LOT of measurements and heaps of plots and posting them).
Too bad if you have one at 5kHz for instance where it happens to be really bad but excellent at 4.5 and 5.5kHz for instance and almost inaudible with music.

The 40Hz at 100dB SPL will end really really bad for most dynamic headphones yet may sound totally fine at 90dB average SPL levels (is really loud already) with music peaking at 100dB SPL.

The review from Amir is a quick one with FR (as it happens to be for that particular rig only) acc. to a standard where the SINAD number will be no measure for quality with a different distortion measurement and Amir's short subjective opinion.
Based on that property alone the LCD-X would get the highest recommendation and be top of the list warranting another panther.

The FR plot is really only readable for most initiated people who can 'translate' the curve + target in their heads to estimate FR. so would expect the 'corrected' version as well for the folks that have a hard time correlating (includes me) to actual sound.

With EQ you can 'fix' a lot of headphones and improve others. It is essentially needed for almost all headphones.

It doesn't look like the HP measurements will be a 'one stop shop' type of thing just like it isn't on all other websites. These too only have scattered info someone might be looking for. Rtings also adds info, crinacle adds info, oratory adds info even RAA adds other info.

I see Amir's review as an addition of the info that is already available. A second opinion, another few reference points to a giant puzzle as it were.
Just made with other equipment and another copy of an already measured headphone elsewhere.
It can add info or confirmation of what's already known. If that's what Amir is after then that's O.K.
At this moment it is nowhere near the Klippel measurements and far removed from the DAC and amp measurements.

Amir is just starting this so give him some slack and pointers to fine tune his thing and am interested to see how this evolves and what the standard 'reporting' will be and how this will add info to what's already out there.
Just measuring and reporting FR on one particular test rig isn't all the info that is needed. The most important factor... yes. But not the only one.

M
Thanks. This is helpful.

I do agree with Amir's assessment though. These are supposed to be versatile enough to take along, hence the low impedance, metal housing, marketing, but to me, they fail big time. The FR is unacceptable without EQ, and EQ adds a layer of inconvenience that varies depending on your setup.

With my Amazon music HD subscription, Echo Link to Schiit stack for home listening, I am pretty sure there is no good way to add EQ without something like a Behringer DEQ2496 between the Link and the Schiit. With the need to set up the Behringer, that puts them into far worse than Raal or Stax for inconvenience to me. I might try this anyway.

I am going to see if I can get them EQd with Wavelet on my Samsung phone with Amazon HD, which might be fine for low power.

And then I can put software on my desktop PC and EQ them into my Schiit Hel or Focusrite Scarlet. This should give performance, but I do not really listen to music here so beyond gear testing is not useful.

Of course if I want to listen to a record or tape, then I need an ADC and much more inconvenience, along with a loss of the nostalgia of analog... or I could get or make some bespoke active line level EQ or something.

The other option is status quo, but to me, without EQ, they are pretty bad. Totally inferior to my Focal Clears, and probably more like a $30 headphone.

Possible end game with EQ, $30 headphone without. I suppose the fact you can use them without EQ gives them versatility, but if you really plan to take your headphones with you and plug them into a sound board or something, these would not be my choice.
 
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Blujackaal

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Weird how quick audiophiles will bin stuff that don't match their views. Since one bit I was at few were fuming at that the 5% of the HD650 & how it fine, One raging had a GS3000e?. Won't change that 0.15 ~ 1% for bass going to sound much cleaner than 5 ~ 20% that affects the overall sound, Which can be tested with EDM or anything rich under 100Hz. HD650 high THD at 40Hz seems like the driver struggling to do bass with mids/treble, Which could be from diaphragm stress or it being a old 40mm driver.

The ER3/ER4 uses BA that can be <0.35% under 200Hz on many charts, The Grado/HD650 fanboyism is getting annoying. Since if 1% at 1KHz a issue then i can say the HD650 being 5% and any Grado being 15% is one too.
 

Helicopter

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Weird how quick audiophiles will bin stuff that don't match their views. Since one bit I was at few were fuming at that the 5% of the HD650 & how it fine, One raging had a GS3000e?. Won't change that 0.15 ~ 1% for bass going to sound much cleaner than 5 ~ 20% that affects the overall sound, Which can be tested with EDM or anything rich under 100Hz. HD650 high THD at 40Hz seems like the driver struggling to do bass with mids/treble, Which could be from diaphragm stress or it being a old 40mm driver.

The ER3/ER4 uses BA that can be <0.35% under 200Hz on many charts, The Grado/HD650 fanboyism is getting annoying. Since if 1% at 1KHz a issue then i can say the HD650 being 5% and any Grado being 15% is one too.
The need to add EQ may be insignificant in some scenarios, and it may be a problem in others. With Amazon HD specifically, and analog, it may be a problem you have to solve, not just a simple implementation.

I agree with you on HD600 series. Nothing special to my ears, and distortion is not the biggest flaw. They sound their best with my Darkvoice 336SE, which improves FR and adds distortion.
 

Blujackaal

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The need to add EQ may be insignificant in some scenarios, and it may be a problem in others. With Amazon HD specifically, and analog, it may be a problem you have to solve, not just a simple implementation.

I agree with you on HD600 series. Nothing special to my ears, and distortion is not the biggest flaw. They sound their best with my Darkvoice 336SE, which improves FR and adds distortion.

Yeah i only bother with EQ since i use my phone with neturon that has EQ. The HD650 been always very overhyped the same sub i lurk, Would implode if Amir wen't ER4XR >>>> HD6XX. I went with the DT 770 250ohm instead to pair with my ER4SR since it seems way more known & has no problem with doing bass reaching 10Hz with old 40mm driver from the 80s?.
 

Archsam

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So this morning I dug up an old 6.35mm to 3.5mm adaptor and connected the LCD-X to my Sony WM-1A, which has EQ function. I followed Amir's setting and added +4dB @ 31Hz, +2dB @ 62Hz and +8dB at 4000Hz.

There is a 'Direct Source' button in the Walkman that allows me to switch from EQ to non-EQ, so I can A/B the two settings instantly (sighted of course). The change in sound quality was vastly improved and it is not subtle. Without the EQ the sound is hollowed, with what I can best described as a steep 'V' sound. With the EQ on the sound is much, much closer to my Focal Clear, but with fuller lower bass. I'm also surprised the steep +8dB setting does not degrade the SQ one bit.

Thanks Amir!
 

maxxevv

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Just a suggestion for @amirm in future headphone measurements.

Personal experience with the HD800 and a few headphones suggests that different headphones will have different perceived bass responses based on different loudness levels. Perhaps it would be good to do a frequency response measurement at different dB loudness levels.

Say 60, 66, 72, 78, 84, 90 dB values ?

I think it will bring a different insight into the perceived performance and listening characteristic of different headphones.
 
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